Image Map

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back to Ethiopia!!

Above: photo of a threadbare soccer ball taken at A-Hope orphanage in Ethiopia.

Back in July, I wrote a post titled "Weighing Heavy on My Heart". In that post, I voiced what I think many adoptive parents feel once they have returned home with their children, feeling forever changed from the experience they just had. For me, being aware every day of the dramatic difference in my sons lives between "then" and "now". And then also recognizing the fact that there are MILLIONS of children around the world still living without the love and protection of a mommy or daddy. My heart hurts for the pain my little boys have had to endure and yet there are MILLIONS of children enduring that pain right now. And some of those children I held in my arms, and wiped away tears, and played with, and laughed with in Ethiopia less than one year ago - and they are still there.

About a month ago, I wrote ... "Ever since returning from Ethiopia with our two little boys, there is something heavy weighing on my heart. ... I remember seeing news clips about the famine in Ethiopia or the genocide in Rwanda, and turning my face away from the horrible images on the screen. Terrible images to see, but they did not affect me because I had personally never seen a starving child, or the look of desperation and hopeless pleading in the eyes of that child's mother.

After awhile, the images start to look the same and we become immune to the horror. Then one day it struck me, that the only difference between my child (my precious, beautiful and valuable daughters) and that starving, orphaned child on TV was an accident of lattitude and longitude. Simply where they were born.

What if that was me, living in poverty in Africa or Asia or India, and what if I was watching my child starve in front of my eyes. Worse yet, what if I was dying (of some stupid infection that could have been cured with a simple antibiotic) and when I was gone there would be NO ONE to love or protect my children. NO ONE to tell them they are loved and valued, NO ONE to give them hope. In fact, when I am gone, they will likely starve to death, become prey to some sick child predator, or they would have to sell their bodies for a scrap of bread so they can survive another horrifying day.These thoughts are so horrible that as quickly as they enter my head and nauseate my stomach, I can banish them because that just isn't the reality for me, here in America.

I know that is the horrible reality for other mothers, but what can I really do about it???

But then we chose to adopt, and yes, the experiences we had and the things we saw in Ethiopia continue to haunt me and continue to stir my heart and hands to action. But that's not the main thing that compels me to action right now. It's my two little boys, our sons that we adopted from Ethiopia. It's my 8 year old son, who could not look me in the eye when he first came home with us. I would bend down to his level to look him in the eye as I spoke to him, and his eyes would dart away. I would cup his face in my hands and turn his eyes back toward mine, and he could not, would not hold my gaze. Why was that?? Is it because he did not know his worth and his value? What a difference just 8 months later. Tonight as we sat on the sidelines for his soccer game, he glanced over about 100 times during that game to see if we were watching. "Do you see me?" he wondered as his eyes searched for ours and his face would light into a huge smile when he saw us looking back.

It's our 3 year old son, who at first responded to us with glares, and rhythmic crying and biting because of the pain and distrust he had learned - and now he wraps his little arms tightly around my neck each night when I carry him up to bed. And when I tuck him in, he kisses me on each cheek and then my forehead and whispers "I lus you mommy". And when I pick him up after work, he looks into my face with delight and asks, "Home??". "Yes, we are going home" I tell him.

And the problem is, whenever I see those sad images now ... a sea of dirty faces, of skinny children desperately smiling for the camera, with flies on their eyes and the corners of their mouth, and protruding bellies, and scrawny legs, and rag clothing - I catch my breath and tears well up in my eyes and my throat chokes ... because I see Wesley's eyes in that child, or Jayden's smile in that child and I know that my sons were there. Those could be my children, my sons and my daughters, and who is going to protect them, and love them, and tell them they are valuable, and worthwhile and precious beyond measure??? Who????

Those orphaned children are no different than your son or your daughter. The one thing they want most in the world is a family - a mommy and a daddy. Someone to protect them and to love them and to teach them their immeasurable worth."

So what do I do with that??? What do YOU do with that???

There is something WE CAN do about that? Would you consider partnering with me and a few other families as we return to Ethiopia in November with Children's Hopechest ( We will be visiting several orphanages and care-points during our trip, with plans to develop them into long-term care-points.

A community of people here - that will partner with a community in Ethiopia - to make a long-term impact.

It starts with child sponsorship - agreeing to sponsor one specific child for about $30/month to meet the primary needs of food, clothing, education and medical care - all within the framework of physically demonstrating and teaching God's love for them. But it does not stop there!!!

That community of sponsors will build long-term relationships by sending a group to Ethiopia 2 times a year - and embracing capital campaigns to dig a well, or build a kitchen, or provide electricity, and eventually to teach these children to be self-sufficient by developing and sustaining small businesses - sewing, gardening or chicken coops, etc.

It's a long-term plan for a community of people here, to unite and build relationships with a community of people in Ethiopia - starting with an orphanage or carepoint that reaches out to care for orphaned children.

If you are interested in being involved in any way (large or small), please email me at or find me on face book and let me know (Karen Wistrom). We leave for Ethiopia Nov 30 - Dec 8, and upon our return to the U.S. we will immediately begin to match sponsors to orphaned children and build long-term relationships to demonstrate God's love for them, while teaching them to become self-sufficient, confident, hope-filled young adults. I am so excited to see what God will accomplish through this endeavor!!

For those of you that have never been involved in child sponsorship or overseas mission work, please consider taking this step with us. And for those that have adopted a child or sponsor a child, and want to take the next step in making a lasting impact, please get in touch with me. I look forward to partnering with you as we personally connect, community to community, with orphans in Ethiopia!!


Anonymous said...

Karen! That's awesome! Got tears in my eyes again reading what you wrote back in July! I'll email or call soon. We're really excited about the stuff going on. So wish I could go on the trip...perhaps another time soon. I'm really looking forward to hearing about it when you get back.
Love to you all,

Rob and Candy said...

beautifully said!

Rob and Candy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jodi Widhalm said...

I've been reading your blog on and off, along with several other adoption blogs for several months now. My husband and I are getting ready to send in our adoption application to AWAA this week. One of the things on my heart is that adoption, though so wonderful, blesses so few children compared to enormous need. Maybe our $20,000 could be put to better use for the "big picture". And still, the adoption is at the forefront of our minds. That said, I've already decided that even though the adoption will happen, there is a need for me to be involved in the "big picture" as well. I'd love to know more about your projects. You can email me any information you'd like to share at Thanks so much! I'm looking forward to hearing from you!